Amy Johnson: Queen of the Skies

Marking 80 years since her record-breaking solo flight to Australia, we salute Britain’s legendary aviatrix.

Born in Hull in 1903, Amy Johnson transcended contemporary conventions of gender, class and education to become a true pioneer in a man’s world. Through a combination of brains, hard graft and sheer grit, she earned her pilot’s license and became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930 – a series of high profile record attempts and an exhausting round of publicity tours followed, making Amy no stranger to the newsreel cameras. She inspired a popular song, had clothes designed for her by Parisian couturier Schiaparelli, and mixed with the celebrities of the day; a troubled marriage to fellow aviator Jim Mollison only increased her fame. This restless, glamorous life came to a tragic end in January 1941, when she mysteriously baled out of her plane into the icy waters of the Thames Estuary.

Featuring rare documentary footage and home movies, this collection also includes Anna Neagle’s famous portrayal of Amy in Herbert Wilcox’s biopic They Flew Alone (1942), re-titled Wings and the Woman for its US release: a rousing piece of wartime propaganda which fuelled the Johnson myth.

Five to try

Johnnie’s Welcome Home (1930)

The Topical Budget cameras capture Johnson’s triumphant return to Croydon Aerodrome after her solo flight to Australia.

Dual Control (1932)

Amy and then-husband Jim Mollison appear in this eccentric early sound film: a real rarity for Johnson fans.

Amy Johnson Family Films (1932-1940)

See a different side of Amy in these highlights from the BFI National Archive’s collection of home movies shot by the Johnson family.

Amy! (1980)

Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen’s avant-garde portrait of a feminist icon.

The Real Amy Johnson (2003)

TV documentary re-examining Johnson’s life and the legends inspired by her untimely death.

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